PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — A wooden fishing boat that John Steinbeck chartered in 1940 with a biologist friend, then wrote about in a story of their journey through the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, sits in sad, decaying splendor in a boatyard here, two hours northwest of Seattle.
People have come from as far away as Liverpool, England, to see the vessel, named the Western Flyer, in the eight months since it arrived. There is no exhibit, no effort to market the ship as an attraction, or even point the way so people can easily find it, blocked and braced out of the water at the back of the yard. Mud covers the portholes from its two sinkings and resurrections. The brass doorknobs are corroded to green, and the upper rail buckles inward with rot and age.
“We get a couple of people a week, and we give them directions — it’s pretty low key,” said Anna Quinn, an owner of Imprint Bookstore, a downtown shop that sells a few copies a week of the book that resulted from Steinbeck’s trip, “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.”
“They just want to see and touch it and be in the literary aura,” Ms. Quinn said.
A final chapter for the Western Flyer may be about to unfold. And there are fierce disagreements about how — and where — its tale of fleeting celebrity and ignominious decay should end.
The boat’s owner, Gerry Kehoe, a California businessman, said he planned to collect his property within the next couple of months. The 76-foot-long vessel, he said, will be cut into two or three pieces and trucked to Salinas, Calif., where Steinbeck was born, then reassembled and installed as the centerpiece — with real water and a dock — in the lobby of a boutique hotel Mr. Kehoe is developing.
The hotel, with two restaurants surrounding the boat and glass panels telling the story of the voyage, will open in the summer of 2015 with Western Flyer in the name, he said in a telephone interview.
The nephew of the Western Flyer’s skipper in 1940 has been ferociously critical of Mr. Kehoe’s plan. He says the boat belongs in Monterey, where it worked in Steinbeck’s day as a sardine fisher, and deserves better in retirement.
“He talks a good game, but he really doesn’t know what he’s doing — he doesn’t have a clue,” said Robert Enea, whose uncle, Tony Berry, piloted the voyage by Steinbeck and the biologist, E. F. Ricketts.
Mr. Enea, a retired physical education teacher, led a nonprofit group called the Western Flyer Project that he said had raised $10,000 and was trying to buy the boat in 2010 for $45,000 when Mr. Kehoe got it instead. The group, Mr. Enea said, envisioned a mission of environmental education in Monterey Bay, echoing and honoring the Cortez trip.
Mr. Kehoe said the Flyer Project lacked resources to save or restore anything — not least a boat built in 1937 that would take “well into the seven figures” to be made seaworthy. And, he added, striking a note that Steinbeck himself might have savored as a champion of the underdog, the economically struggling town Salinas simply deserves the Western Flyer more than wealthy, flourishing Monterey.
“Does everybody want the rich to be richer?” Mr. Kehoe said, adding that access to the boat will be free. Salinas, he said, “doesn’t have a lot going for it, to be honest with you, but it is the birthplace of the great man.”
Literary tourism is a big business, in the bits of a writer’s life that get left around in the messy business of living, or the characters that came to life on the page. From Key West, Fla., where visitors can swill rum in honor of Hemingway, toDickens World, a theme park in England that offers a re-creation of bleak and stinky Victorian London, writers are still earning their keep.
Here on Washington’s rainy Olympic Peninsula, setting of the hugely successful teen-vampire-romance“Twilight” novels by Stephenie Meyer, Steinbeck is small potatoes anyway. In Forks, which the heroine, Bella Swan, called home and is two hours west of Port Townsend, visitors can stay in one of the Twilight Rooms at the Pacific Inn Motel, or eat a Bella’s Barbecue Burger Dip at the Forks Coffee Shop.
Some who have come to see the Western Flyer pay homage to science. The six-week, 4,000-mile research trip in 1940 to study plants and animals formed a template for thinking and writing about ecology decades before the modern environmental movement, said Ian Hinkle, a Canadian filmmaker who came to shoot in January for adocumentary on the Salish Sea called “Reaching Blue.”
“That boat was the inspiration for many ocean researchers and ecologists today,” he said. “Now it’s sitting in a boatyard, just sitting there, one more big old rotting piece of broken dreams.”
But perhaps for at least part of the summer tourism season in Port Townsend that began this weekend, the Western Flyer is going nowhere. Ms. Quinn, who owns Imprint Books with her husband, Peter, said they were hoping to do some Steinbeck readings this summer, with people gathering at the boatyard.
Steinbeck himself, in “The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” said he believed the bond of boats and people ran too deep to sever. “It is very easy to see why the Viking wished his body to sail away in an unmanned ship, for neither could exist without the other,” he wrote.
Google Earth Tours and Educational Materials created during 2014
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's attempt
of the first crossing of the Antarctic continent,
from sea to sea via the Pole
THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917
BY SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON C.V.O.
"The foregoing chapters of this book represent the general narrative of our Expedition. That we failed in accomplishing the object we set out for was due, I venture to assert, not to any neglect or lack of organization, but to the overwhelming natural obstacles, especially the unprecedentedly severe summer conditions on the Weddell Sea side. But though the Expedition was a failure in one respect, I think it was successful in many others. A large amount of important scientific work was carried out. The meteorological observations in particular have an economic bearing. The hydrographical work in the Weddell Sea has done much to clear up the mystery of this, the least known of all the seas. I have appended a short scientific memorandum to this volume, but the more detailed scientific results must wait until a more suitable time arrives, when more stable conditions prevail. Then results will be worked out. To the credit side of the Expedition one can safely say that the comradeship and resource of the members of the Expedition was worthy of the highest traditions of Polar service; and it was a privilege to me to have had under my command men who, through dark days and the stress and strain of continuous danger, kept up their spirits and carried out their work regardless of themselves and heedless of the limelight. The same energy and endurance that they showed in the Antarctic they brought to the greater war in the Old World. And having followed our fortunes in the South you may be interested to know that practically every member of the Expedition was employed in one or other branches of the active fighting forces during the war. Several are still abroad, and for this very reason it has been impossible for me to obtain certain details for this book.
Of the fifty-three men who returned out of the fifty-six who left for the South, three have since been killed and five wounded. Four decorations have been won, and several members of the Expedition have been mentioned in dispatches. McCarthy, the best and most efficient of the sailors, always cheerful under the most trying circumstances, and who for these very reasons I chose to accompany me on the boat journey to South Georgia, was killed at his gun in the Channel. Cheetham, the veteran of the Antarctic, who had been more often south of the Antarctic circle than any man, was drowned when the vessel he was serving in was torpedoed, a few weeks before the Armistice. Ernest Wild, Frank Wild's brother, was killed while minesweeping in the Mediterranean. Mauger, the carpenter on the Aurora, was badly wounded while serving with the New Zealand Infantry, so that he is unable to follow his trade again. He is now employed by the New Zealand Government. The two surgeons, Macklin and Mcllroy, served in France and Italy, McIlroy being badly wounded at Ypres. Frank Wild, in view of his unique experience of ice and ice conditions, was at once sent to the North Russian front, where his zeal and ability won him the highest praise.
Macklin served first with the Yorks and later transferred as medical officer to the Tanks, where he did much good work. Going to the Italian front with his battalion, he won the Military Cross for bravery in tending wounded under fire.
James joined the Royal Engineers, Sound Ranging Section, and after much front-line work was given charge of a Sound Ranging School to teach other officers this latest and most scientific addition to the art of war.
Stenhouse, who commanded the Auroraafter Mackintosh landed, was with Worsley as his second in command when one of the German submarines was rammed and sunk, and received the D.S.C. for his share in the fight. He was afterwards given command of a Mystery Ship, and fought several actions with enemy submarines.
Nearly all of the crew of the Aurora joined the New Zealand Field Forces and saw active service in one or other of the many theatres of war. Several have been wounded, but it has been impossible to obtain details.
On my return, after the rescue of the survivors of the Ross Sea Party, I offered my services to the Government, and was sent on a mission to South America. When this was concluded I was commissioned as Major and went to North Russia in charge of Arctic Equipment and Transport, having with me Worsley, Stenhouse, Hussey, Macklin, and Brocklehurst, who was to have come South with us, but who, as a regular officer, rejoined his unit on the outbreak of war. He has been wounded three times and was in the retreat from Mons. Worsley was sent across to the Archangel front, where he did excellent work, and the others served with me on the Murmansk front. The mobile columns there had exactly the same clothing, equipment, and sledging food as we had on the Expedition. No expense was spared to obtain the best of everything for them, and as a result not a single case of avoidable frost-bite was reported.
Taking the Expedition as a unit, out of fifty-six men three died in the Antarctic, three were killed in action, and five have been wounded, so that our casualties have been fairly high.
Though some have gone there are enough left to rally round and form a nucleus for the next Expedition when troublous times are over and scientific exploration can once more be legitimately undertaken."
SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917
"Captain Davis brought the Aurora alongside the ice edge off Cape Royds on the morning of January 10, and I went ashore with a party to look for some record in the hut erected there by my Expedition in 1907. I found a letter stating that the Ross Sea party was housed at Cape Evans, and was on my way back to the ship when six men, with dogs and sledge, were sighted coming from the direction of Cape Evans. At 1 p.m. this party arrived on board, and we learned that of the ten members of the Expedition left behind when the Aurora broke away on May 6, 1915, seven had survived, namely, A. Stevens, E. Joyce,H. E. Wild, J. L. Cope, R. W. Richards, A. K. Jack, I. O. Gaze. These seven men were all well, though they showed traces of the ordeal through which they had passed. They told us of the deaths of Mackintosh, Spencer-Smith, and Hayward, and of their own anxious wait for relief.
All that remained to be done was to make a final search for the bodies of Mackintosh and Hayward. There was no possibility of either man being alive. They had been without equipment when the blizzard broke the ice they were crossing. It would have been impossible for them to have survived more than a few days, and eight months had now elapsed without news of them. Joyce had already searched south of Glacier Tongue. I considered that further search should be made in two directions, the area north of Glacier Tongue, and the old depot off Butler Point, and I made a report to Captain Davis to this effect."
Click HERE to explore Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island
SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917
"Due west we can see the Possession Islands, lying under the stupendous bluff of Cape Downshire, which shows large patches of black rock. The land slopes down to the north-west of Cape Downshire, and rises again into the high peninsula about Cape Adore. We felt excited this morning in anticipation of seeing the sun, which rose about nine-thirty (local time). It was a glorious, joyful sight. We drank to something, and with very light hearts gave cheers for the sun.
“August 9.—Donolly got to work on the rudder again. It is a long job cutting through the iron sheathing-plates of the rudder, and not too safe at present, as the ice is treacherous. Hooke says that the conditions are normal now. I wish for his sake that he could get through. He is a good sportsman and keeps on trying, although, I am convinced, he has little hope with this inadequate aerial."
SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917 “March 9, Thursday.—Had a very bad night, cold intense. Temperature down to —29° all night. At 4 a.m. Spencer Smith called out that he was feeling queer. Wild spoke to him. Then at 5.45 Richards suddenly said, ‘I think he has gone.’ Poor Smith, for forty days in pain he had been dragged on the sledge, but never grumbled or complained. He had a strenuous time in his wet bag, and the jolting of the sledge on a very weak heart was not too good for him. Sometimes when we lifted him on the sledge he would nearly faint, but during the whole time he never complained. Wild looked after him from the start. We buried him in his bag at 9 o’clock at the following position: Ereb. 184°—Obs. Hill 149°. We made a cross of bamboos, and built a mound and cairn, with particulars. After that got under way with Hayward on sledge. Found going very hard, as we had a northerly wind in our faces, with a temperature below 20°. What with frost-bites, etc., we are all suffering. Even the dogs seem like giving in; they do not seem to take any interest in their work. We have been out much too long, and nothing ahead to cheer us up but a cold, cheerless hut. We did about two and a half miles in the forenoon; Hayward toddling ahead every time we had a spell. During lunch the wind veered to the south with drift, just right to set sail. We carried on with Hayward on sledge and camped in the dark about 8 o’clock. Turned in at 10, weary, worn, and sad. Hoping to reach depot to-morrow."
SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917
"On March 23 Mr. Stenhouse landed a party consisting of Stevens, Spencer-Smith, Gaze, and Richards in order that they might carry out routine observations ashore. These four men took up their quarters in Captain Scott’s hut. They had been instructed to kill seals for meat and blubber. The landing of stores, gear, and coal did not proceed at all rapidly, it being assumed that the ship would remain at her moorings throughout the winter. Some tons of coal were taken ashore during April, but most of it stayed on the beach, and much of it was lost later when the sea-ice went out. This shore party was in the charge of Stevens, and his report, handed to me much later, gives a succinct account of what occurred, from the point of view of the men at the hut:
CAPE EVANS, Ross Island, July 30, 1915."
CLICK HEREto follow the adventures of THE ROSS SEA PARTY and explore captain scott's hut in google street view
SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917 "I now turn to the fortunes and misfortunes of the Ross Sea Party and the Aurora. In spite of extraordinary difficulties occasioned by the breaking out of the Aurora from her winter quarters before sufficient stores and equipment had been landed, Captain Æneas Mackintosh and the party under his command achieved the object of this side of the Expedition. For the depot that was the main object of the Expedition was laid in the spot that I had indicated, and if the transcontinental party had been fortunate enough to have crossed they would have found the assistance, in the shape of stores, that would have been vital to the success of their undertaking. Owing to the dearth of stores, clothing, and sledging equipment, the depot party was forced to travel more slowly and with greater difficulty than would have otherwise been the case. The result was that in making this journey the greatest qualities of endurance, self-sacrifice, and patience were called for, and the call was not in vain, as you reading the following pages will realize. It is more than regrettable that after having gone through those many months of hardship and toil, Mackintosh and Hayward should have been lost. Spencer-Smith during those long days, dragged by his comrades on the sledge, suffering but never complaining, became an example to all men. Mackintosh and Hayward owed their lives on that journey to the unremitting care and strenuous endeavours of Joyce, Wild, and Richards, who, also scurvy-stricken but fitter than their comrades, dragged them through the deep snow and blizzards on the sledges."
SOUTH! THE STORY OF SHACKLETON’S LAST EXPEDITION 1914–1917
"August 30, 1916, is described in their diaries as a “day of wonders.” Food was very short, only two days’ seal and penguin meat being left, and no prospect of any more arriving. The whole party had been collecting limpets and seaweed to eat with the stewed seal bones. Lunch was being served by Wild, Hurley and Marston waiting outside to take a last long look at the direction from which they expected the ship to arrive. From a fortnight after I had left, Wild would roll up his sleeping-bag each day with the remark, “Get your things ready, boys, the Boss may come to-day.” And sure enough, one day the mist opened and revealed the ship for which they had been waiting and longing and hoping for over four months. “Marston was the first to notice it, and immediately yelled out ‘Ship O!’ The inmates of the hut mistook it for a call of ‘Lunch O!’ so took no notice at first. Soon, however, we heard him pattering along the snow as fast as he could run, and in a gasping, anxious voice, hoarse with excitement, he shouted, ‘Wild, there’s a ship! Hadn’t we better light a flare?’ We all made one dive for our narrow door. Those who could not get through tore down the canvas walls in their hurry and excitement. The hoosh-pot with our precious limpets and seaweed was kicked over in the rush. There, just rounding the island which had previously hidden her from our sight, we saw a little ship flying the Chilian flag."